An adult woman was sexually assaulted in broad daylight by a man at the park located at Edgewood Drive and South Ruffner Road, just less than half a mile from Florida Tech.
Commander Daniel Lynch, Melbourne Police public information officer, said the case is still an active investigation, but that the victim was not an FIT student and there was no pattern showing this was a recurring crime in the area. MPD is actively pursuing the criminal.
Melbourne Police alerted Campus Security, who then sent out an email entitled “Timely Notice,” and signed Kevin Graham, Director of Security.
The sexual assault happened at 6 p.m. on Jan. 17, and the “timely notice” was sent out three days later. At the time of this publishing, it’s still an active investigation and police are still searching for the perpetrator.
“It’s not connected to FIT, we just had to report because FIT has protocols they had to put out,” Lynch said of the sexual assault. Those protocols are that if a sexual assault happens close to the university and there continues to be an ongoing threat to students, Security is required to issue a timely warning to the campus under the Jeanne Clery law.
“We just gotta be a little more vigilant,” said Rodney Bowers, dean of Student Affairs. “From what I read in the message, she had her headset on and wasn’t really paying attention.”
Throughout the day, people were heard in conversation talking about the email, as the wording was disconcerting to some students.
“I feel like when I read it, the email seemed to me like ‘we better send this out so we can cover our asses,’ rather than ‘I’m genuinely concerned about the safety of our students,’” said Duke Richardson, a senior in communication. “Sending an email to FITforum isn’t exactly leading the charge on a safe campus, you know? How many emails on FITforum do you get a day that you just completely disregard? I disregard more than half.”
Some didn’t like that the subject line was, “Timely Notice,” while some didn’t like the fact the safety tips were prefaced with the fact that the woman was wearing headphones and unaware, given it was daytime.
“It made me very upset, I felt like nobody cared what this guy did,” said Suzanne Beims, a junior in accounting. “And it left the impression that security doesn’t give a shit.”
She went on to explain that the situation made her concerned for the interests of students who experience sexual assault on campus. “Let’s say that I got sexually assaulted and I went and told Security,” she said. “Security’s going to be like, oh well, you weren’t paying attention, this is your fault, but we’ll send out an email about it.”
The Title IX process is extensive, and Security is required to do an investigation of all sexual assault investigations, where they’re fair to both the victim and the suspect, calling the victim the “complainant,” and the suspect the “respondent” for fairness, figuring out the facts of the case, and presenting them to Dean Bowers for a disciplinary decision on whether it was a violation on the student code of conduct, according to Graham.
“There definitely should have been more of a warning like this behavior is not tolerated, than ‘well, if it’s going to happen it’s going to happen, just try to make sure it doesn’t happen to you,’” said Beims.
Richardson said he was fine with the content of the email, but that the most important piece of information that was missing was the message: ‘don’t sexually assault people.’
“I think that all of the targeted emails and information that we get is more geared toward ‘bad things are happening, it’s inevitable, so these are ways you can try and prolong something bad happening to you,” Richardson said. “Not prevent — but prolong the inevitable events that are going to happen to you. As opposed to, ‘let’s create a culture on this campus where sexual assault is not okay.”
He mentioned the It’s On Us campaign that many people pledged to last year, a national program dedicated to stopping sexual assault on college campuses.
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 68 percent of sexual assault crimes are not reported to police, and 98 percent of will never spend a day in prison, so creating a culture of recognizing, reporting and reinforcing is exactly what campaigns like It’s On Us, Security and Title IX have said they are aiming to do.
“I took it totally differently,” Bowers said. “They were trying to explain what happened based on the information they were given, so you’d be aware of what type of person was being targeted to give you a clear picture of why that person was being assaulted.”
Approximately 4/5 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim — and 47 percent of rapists are a friend or acquaintance, according to RAINN statistics.
This case is rare in that the attacker was a stranger unknown to the victim.
“If it had happened on campus,” Bowers said, “most definitely there probably would have been more of a response.”
Bowers said he thinks Security is handling sexual assault investigations fairly, but that he’d like to see more female security officers on campus and more outreach educational programs.
“I just wish the information we got was like, ‘hey, this is our Panther Family, this is what we want to do to protect the pack,’” Richardson said, “rather than, ‘don’t run with headphones in or you’re going to get sexually assaulted.’”
Below is a screenshot of the email sent out: